Sunday 30 June 2013

A Conversation About Cheating with My Time Traveling Future Self (2012)

Director: Pornsak Pichetshote
Stars: Bobby Campo, Haley Webb and Lauren Kruse
This film was an official selection at the 9th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
Surely the best title in play at this year's International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival was this one: A Conversation About Cheating with My Time Traveling Future Self. Given that the first short made by writer/director Pornsak Pichetshote was intriguingly called Women Who Eat Meat, I'm tempted to build a time machine just to find out what other films he's going to make in the future. Perhaps he already built one and used it to go back in time to persuade Hollywood producers that the titles they had weren't the right ones. Was it Pichetshote who persuaded Clint Eastwood to rename The Cut-Whore Killings to Unforgiven? Maybe it was he who talked the adapters of a newspaper article called The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night into calling it Saturday Night Fever instead. If he was the one responsible for changing the title of the unpublished stage play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, when Hollywood began to adapt it for the screen, into Casablanca, I'll buy him a drink.

'It's never just one thing, but you know that, right?' That's what the narrator tells us, as we watch Stan dance rather suggestively with a gorgeous blonde who is clearly not the dark haired lady in the image on his phone. He's talking about all those little moments we could have played in other ways or those decisions we could have taken differently. What makes this special, as Stan knows already and we're about to find out, as he leaves a guaranteed sexual conquest with this smoking hot blonde, is that he's the narrator too. As the title hammers home, that doesn't mean his inner voice needling for attention, his conscience screaming to be heard or those little angels and devils that show up on shoulders in animated movies to figure out the best plan of action, it's that he's literally the narrator. He's in a nearby room ready to explain. 'I have travelled exactly one year back in time,' he says, 'to tell you to cheat on your girlfriend with that slut in the other room.'
As setups for science fiction stories go, that's a pretty good one. It doesn't quite reach the epic stature of Fredric Brown's Knock, but it's a peach nonetheless. Bring it on, I say. And Pichetshote does. Like any story about cheating, everything here boils down to trust and selfishness, but that usually means the trust that exists (or doesn't exist) between a couple and the selfishness that leads at least one half of that couple to stray. This nine minute short goes a notable step further by making it all about Stan. It may be difficult to trust another person a hundred percent, but how hard can it be to trust yourself? What if 'yourself' is outwardly manifest and has your unlived next year of future lived and outlined so that you can make better informed decisions? Even he might have ulterior motives, after all. Where Pichetshote goes with this is consistently fascinating and provocative. It's rare that I get to see a new twist on the tired time travel trope.

Haley Webb and Lauren Kruse get a little to do here but not much. Almost the entire running time revolves around Bobby Campo and Bobby Campo, the current and future versions of Stan talking to each other in a hotel room, thus proving that capable science fiction doesn't have to have CGI up the wazoo, it merely has to have ideas. Pichetshote describes this as a 'theatre piece that can only be done on film' and I find that a pretty solid way to see it. Given that what we see relies on what Campo does, it's good to see that he does good work here, ensuring that each version of his character is slightly but believably different, not only because a year makes everyone just a little different but to help us keep track of which one's which. Their conversation feels natural because he really is replying to himself, merely a recorded version, which in a way is a microcosm of the story as a whole. Even without a spectacular title, this one is worth coming back to.

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